Now, oh dear, where to start on this review. I love any story post-apocalyptic. There is something redemptive reading about the humankind having a second chance at life. I like 1984 (by George Orwell), the classic that gave birth to this genre. I even enjoyed The Hunger Games, the modern take of it. However, with all the hype surrounding the Divergent book series and film franchise, it is wanting and barely scratches the surface of the potential that the plot possesses.
The stylistics of the book is very basic. I had to keep reminding myself that the book is written for teenagers. But then as teenagers we read heavy duty Russian and French classics with complex texts and concepts. I didn’t feel that the author even tried to use a more serious writing style to convey the story and give it a bit of weight. One of the annoying things authors can do to their readers is to keep asking questions in the text. Veronica Roth does it in every single paragraph. There is a point where I though I was reading a quiz book (see my sample of question nuisance in the paragraph below).
So, what’s Divergent like and what is the story about? Well, Divergent is a mixture of great stories that have done well for themselves. There is no solid background, no depth of conviction nor its own identity to the storyline. For the first two hundred pages, you cannot help but muse that you are reading a fusion of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Here is why: The story is set in Chicago. Actually, if it wasn’t for the film, there is no indication in the book where the story takes place. There was a war (what war? what happened? who fought? who won?). So to avoid another war (who with? who is the enemy?) people divided themselves into five factions (why five only?): Abnegation (The Selfless), Amity (The Peaceful), Candor (The Honest), Dauntless (The Brave), Erudite (The Intelligent). There is an outcast group of people present in this utopian society. They are called Factionless. It is made of people who were not chosen by the Sorting Hat.. sorry, I mean failed their initiation process.
Beatrice Prior is at the age when she has to choose whether she stays with her family in the Abnegation faction, or adopts another faction that is close to her heart, Dauntless. Her aptitude tests were inconclusive, i.e. she has natural ability for three factions instead of one. The test proctor warns her not to tell anyone as this result indicates she is ‘Divergent’ and, therefore, a threat to the society. Eventually, Beatrice chooses Dauntless as her new faction and her life takes a new route.
Part Two: for the next two hundred pages cue in the Matrix theme. Part of the Dauntless’ training is confronting your fears. The initiates are hooked up to a computer to enter a simulation programme that will help you deal with fears. Sounds familiar? “Tank? Load us up!” And, no, there is no woman in the red dress.
During her initiation training with Dauntless, Beatrice (now ‘Tris) is taunted by the sadistic young leader, bullied by fellow initiates and befriends her trainer, Four (yes, that’s his nickname) who plays an important part in the series. Tris soon discovers evil plans of an Erudite leader and sets her mind to undo them, even though it means putting her life at risk.
Having noticed weaknesses in the plot and its stylistics, I must give credit to the book for addressing the issues that many young adults struggle with: bullying, negative authority, stereotyping and suicide.
As I mentioned, the plot has so much potential, but it is not explored in depth. I give generous 3* for the potential, effort to address adolescent issues through fiction and the level of light entertainment.